The best gripping books set in the wild

Who am I?

In addition to being a writer, I’m also a wildlife researcher and therefore spend a lot of time in wild, remote areas. Using a variety of methods including bioacoustic studies, I undertake wildlife surveys to determine what species are present on lands that have been set aside for conservation. I ensure there are no signs of poaching and devise of ways to improve habitat. I have surveyed for the presence of grizzlies, wolves, spotted owls, wolverines, jaguars, endangered bats, and more. These remote settings inspired me to write my current thriller series about a wildlife biologist who encounters dangerous situations while working to protect endangered species.


I wrote...

Book cover of A Solitude of Wolverines: A Novel of Suspense

What is my book about?

While studying wolverines on a wildlife sanctuary in Montana, biologist Alex Carter is run off the road and threatened by locals determined to force her off the land. Undeterred, Alex tracks wolverines on foot and by cameras positioned in remote regions of the preserve. But when she reviews the photos, she discovers disturbing images of a severely injured man seemingly lost and wandering in the wilds.

After searches for the unknown man come up empty, local law enforcement is strangely set on dismissing the case altogether. Alex realizes too late that she has seen too much—she's stumbled onto a far-reaching illegal operation and has become the biggest threat. Alex’s life now depends on using all she knows to win the brutal battle for survival.

The books I picked & why

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Firestorm

By Nevada Barr,

Book cover of Firestorm

Why this book?

I tore through this gripping mystery, set in the world of wildlands firefighting, in one sitting. I felt like I was on the fire line with the characters, could feel the heat of the blaze. With the terrible fires that have been raging lately in the west, if readers want to get a feel for the obstacles, sheer bravery, and fear firefighters face battling a wildlands blaze, this book is a must-read. The mystery plot, clever and twisting, kept me guessing, while the main character, national park ranger Anna Pigeon, is a stalwart, strong character I could truly get behind.

Firestorm

By Nevada Barr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Firestorm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of TRACK OF THE CAT, A SUPERIOR DEATH and MOUNTAIN OF BONES, a fourth environmental thriller featuring the sleuthing park ranger Anna Pigeon who investigates the murder of a firefighter during a firestorm.


The River of Souls

By Robert McCammon,

Book cover of The River of Souls

Why this book?

Robert McCammon is one of our finest contemporary writers. He truly has the gift of making me feel like I’m in the settings of his books, as if I’ve experienced the tribulations and triumphs of his characters firsthand. River of Souls is no exception. It transported me back in time to the swamps of the Carolinas in 1703, where alligators and snakes prowled the dark waters. The main character, Matthew Corbett, is tasked with journeying up the Solstice River in search of an accused murderer. He encounters strange settlements steeped in mysticism. Tales of a mythical beast hunting humans in the fetid landscape add to the terror. But despite these challenges, Corbett, a smart, dynamic, honor-bound character, will stop at nothing to see justice done.

The River of Souls

By Robert McCammon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The River of Souls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Macabre surprises abound” in this historical thriller by a New York Times–bestselling author, centered on the search for an escaped slave accused of murder (Publishers Weekly).
 
Accompanied by his new friend Magnus Muldoon, professional problem solver Matthew Corbett is in the Carolina colony, where three enslaved people have managed to flee their captors—one of them accused of killing the daughter of a plantation owner. Their quest to close the case will take Matthew and Magnus to the place known as “the River of Souls” as they encounter alligators and Native American warriors—and a terrifying being known as the Soul Cryer…


Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

By Jon Krakauer,

Book cover of Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Why this book?

A lot has been written about the disastrous May 1996 expedition to Mount Everest. Krakauer, who was present then, writes vividly about the storm-ridden, terrifying, and desperate sequence of events that led to the death of five climbers. I learned much about climbing Everest from reading his epic account: the importance of supplemental oxygen and the effects of an oxygen-starved brain; the treacherous sections one must traverse to reach the summit, like ladders draped across the deep crevasses of the Khumbu Icefall; the deadly traffic jams that pile up as too many people try to summit in one day; the rapidity of storms that converge on the peak.

Into Thin Air gives a vivid account of the human drive to reach the strenuous and often obsessive goal of summiting Everest, the struggle to help other climbers in trouble, and the guilt that haunts survivors when fellow climbers die in the summit attempt.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

By Jon Krakauer,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Into Thin Air as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The epic account of the storm on the summit of Mt. Everest that claimed five lives and left countless more—including Krakauer's—in guilt-ridden disarray. 

"A harrowing tale of the perils of high-altitude climbing, a story of bad luck and worse judgment and of heartbreaking heroism." —PEOPLE

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. 

By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons…


The Dark Place

By Aaron Elkins,

Book cover of The Dark Place

Why this book?

Set in the rainforest of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, this book centers on the bizarre murder of a man killed with an ancient weapon not used for the last ten thousand years. Mysterious tales of Sasquatch sightings circulate around the investigation. Only by pressing deep into the rainforest and sleuthing firsthand can the heroes capture the culprit of the crime. While reading this novel, I could feel the cold rain dripping off the tree canopy, and could smell the ferns and moss and hanging lichen of the rainforest. Coincidentally, right after reading this book, I went camping in a remote corner of Washington State. I found myself jumping at the sudden trill of a red squirrel and feeling the shadows of night press in on me. The book had come alive in my mind.

The Dark Place

By Aaron Elkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dark Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gideon Oliver earns his moniker "The Skeleton Detective" in this riveting entry to the Edgar Award-winning mystery series "that never disappoints" (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Deep in the primeval rainforest of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, the skeletal remains of a murdered man are discovered. And a strange, unsettling tale begins to unfold, for forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver determines that the murder weapon was a primitive bone spear of a type not seen for the last ten thousand years. And whoever-or whatever-hurled it did so with seemingly superhuman force. Bigfoot "sightings" immediately crop up, but Gideon is not buying them.

But something…


The Last Season

By Eric Blehm,

Book cover of The Last Season

Why this book?

In 1996, backcountry ranger Randy Morgenstern vanished in the wilds of California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Morgenstern was well-known for his ability to find lost hikers in remote, rugged terrain, and that he could simply vanish himself was unthinkable. An investigation was launched, search parties covered vast areas of the park. Rumors circulated of his simply walking out of the park to start a new life. Others thought he might be injured and unable to reach help, or had even taken his own life.

As I turned the pages, spellbound by the mystery, I also deeply related to Morgenstern’s love of isolated wild places. The wildlife work I do takes me to some remote locations, just as Morgenstern’s did, and I find being out in nature peaceful and fulfilling. This riveting non-fiction book won the National Outdoor Book Award when it came out.

The Last Season

By Eric Blehm,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Season as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Destined to become a classic of adventure literature, The Last Season examines the extraordinary life of legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California's unforgiving Sierra Nevada—mountains as perilous as they are beautiful. Eric Blehm's masterful work is a gripping detective story interwoven with the riveting biography of a complicated, original, and wholly fascinating man.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in park rangers, Northern California, and Washington state?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about park rangers, Northern California, and Washington state.

Park Rangers Explore 18 books about park rangers
Northern California Explore 15 books about Northern California
Washington State Explore 53 books about Washington state

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Desert Solitaire, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Touching the Void if you like this list.